Keeping jalopies alive in word and spirit

A real-life jalopy photographed by Living in Monrovia, via

 The word “jalopies” puzzled my students this week.

I had used it in an example about web design. If an organization promotes spaceships and moonbeams, I said, you don’t want a site that portrays jalopies and garbage cans.

Students looked at me quizzically. Finally, one raised his hand and asked what jalopies were. Others chimed in and said they didn’t know either, saying it sounded like the name of a dessert.

So class discussion moved from apps and web design to jalopies and Tom Joad, from WordPress to words of the past.

A jalopy, if you don’t know, is an old, beat-up, rusty, cranky mess of a car, one that runs only with the aid of baling wire and hope.

The Joad family drove a jalopy on its trip west in “The Grapes of Wrath.” Many of us once drove jalopies, or had family members who did. The picture above shows a jalopy, though many other cars certainly qualify.

Jalopy” is a good word, one I don’t want to fade into obscurity. I did my part to keep it alive in a few minds.

Of course, a discussion about jalopies isn’t complete without sound effects. I’ll let Woody Guthrie handle those.

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